- Bevor / Ehe
- Während / Solange
- Seit / Seitdem
- Sobald / Sowie
- Wenn / Als
Temporal clauses are a type of dependent clauses that informs us when the action in the main clause occurred. We can use different conjunctions to combine main clauses with temporal clauses.
Let's take a look at the most common ways of using temporal clauses with different conjunctions.
Bevor / Ehe
Rule 1: Temporal clauses with bevor and ehe express a non-simultaneity of two actions. The action of the main clause occurs first and the action of the subordinate clause follows after the main clause. We can translate these conjunctions as "before."
Both verbs in the main and subordinate clauses have the same tense.
Bevor Thomas ins Bett geht, putzt er sich die Zähne.
Before Thomas goes to bed, he brushes his teeth.
Note: ehe is used quite rarely.
Rule 2: Temporal clauses with nachdem express a non-simultaneity of two actions. The action of the subordinate clause occurs first, the action of the main clause follows after the subordinate clause. We can translate this conjunction as "after."
The verb of the subordinate clause is one time step before the verb of the main clause, which is expressed with the tenses.
Nachdem Thomas sich die Zähne geputzt hat, geht er ins Bett.
After Thomas brushes his teeth, he goes to bed.
Während / Solange
Rule 3: Temporal clauses with während and solange express a simultaneity of two actions at a time.
- während expresses that things are going on at the same time. We can translate it as "while."
Während du Computer spielst, lerne ich.
While you play with the computer, I learn.
- solange expresses that an action will continue as long as another action continues to occur. It can be translated as "as long as."
Solange du bei mir bist, habe ich keine Angst.
As long as you're with me, I'm not afraid.
Both conjunctions can be used in all times (present, future, past, etc).
Seit / Seitdem
Rule 4: Temporal clauses with seit or seitdem show when something started. These conjunctions can be translated as "since." The action of the subordinate clause begins in the past and lasts until the present.
The main clause is formed in the present tense.
Ich lerne Deutsch, seit ich in Deutschland wohne.
I've been learning German since I've been living in Germany.
Rule 5: Temporal clauses with bis show when something will end. We translate this conjunction as "until."
The main clause indicates a running action. The subordinate clause indicates a second event and defines simultaneously an endpoint of both actions.
Ich bleibe hier, bis ich mit meiner Arbeit fertig bin.
I'll stay here until I'm done with my work.
Sobald / Sowie
Rule 6: Temporal clauses with sobald and sowie express a non-simultaneity of two actions and describe their immediate sequence. We translate these conjunctions as "as soon as."
The action of the subordinate clause is finished before the action of the main clause begins. The verb of the subordinate clause is thereby one time step further in the past than the verb of the main clause.
Schreibt mir, sobald ihr zu Hause seid.
Text me as soon as you're home.
Wenn / Als
Rule 7: Temporal clauses with wenn and als express that two things happen simultaneously at a certain point in time. We can translate both these conjunctions as "when," but use them in several contexts.
- als is used for something that happened once in the past.
Ich habe meinen Führerschein bekommen, als ich 18 Jahre alt war.
When I was 18, I got my driver’s license.
- wenn is used when something happened more than once in the past.
Wenn sie frei hatte, ist sie immer spazieren gegangen.
She always went for a walk when she was free.
- we always use wenn in the future and the present
Die Kinder spielen draußen, wenn der Regen aufhört.
The children will play outside when the rain stops.